Posts Tagged ‘protein’

Brining salmon to avoid formation of white exudate

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Avoid the white exudate (left) by brining salmon (right) prior to cooking

Salmon is a wonderful fish that can be prepared at nearly any temperature between raw (as in sushi) and fully cooked. In between these extremes lies a range of temperatures that with the advent of sous vide have become accessible for more and more (try for instance salmon confit: 18 min @ 42°C). Beyond temperature salmon can be combined with salt, sugar, acids, liquorice or even smoke. And the more adventurous even leave it to ferment for a couple of days to yield a gravlax (which used to be fermented, but today normally is only cured) or – for the strong hearted – rakfisk (which is still produced by fermentation). But exotic preparations aside. A problem encountered when heating salmon is the liquid that oozes out as the muscle is heated, and solidifies once it hits a hot surface. (more…)

Maximizing Food Flavor by Speeding Up the Maillard Reaction

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Is there a way to speed up the browning of onions? (Photo: Frying onion from Bigstock)

An idea that struck me once was to add baking soda to browning onions. I chopped an onion, melted butter in a frying pan, and added the onions together with a pinch of baking soda. And voilà (as Louis-Camille Maillard himself would have said): the color of the onions changed faster than without the baking soda. The taste of the browned onions was remarkably sweet and caramel-like, and compared with conventionally browned onions, they were softer—almost a little mushy. By the addition of baking soda, I had changed the outcome of an otherwise trivial and everyday chemical reaction, and the result seemed interesting from a gastronomic perspective!

The idea of the baking soda addition was not taken out of the blue but based on (more…)

Norwegian egg coffee

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Egg coffee – a mild and refreshing drink that can be served warm as well as cold

I recently stumbled over “Norwegian egg coffee”. At first I thought it was a joke, but it turned out that this is indeed an “egg coffee” – coffee prepared with an egg! I have never heard about it here in Norway, but the fact that it’s popular among Americans of Scandinavian origin in the Midwest suggests that it could be something immigrants brought with them from Norway (feel free to fill me out on the historic origins of this!). I mentioned egg coffee to my mom, and although she had never heard of it before, she did mention that skin or swim bladders from fish were used when boiling coffee to help clearify it. In fact the Norwegian name for this – klareskinn – literally means “clearing skin”. The English name is isinglass (thank’s Rob!). Could it be that the fish skin originally used was replaced by eggs, perhaps due to a limited availability of fish in the Midwest? After all, both are good protein sources.

Speeding up the Maillard reaction

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Ever thought about how pretzels and salt sticks get their nice brown color?

The products of the Maillard reaction provide tastes, smells and colors that are much desired and lend their charachteristics to a variety of foods. In this post I will focus on the factors that influence how fast the Maillard reaction proceeds. And more specifically I’ll give examples on how the Maillard reaction can be speeded up. This is not about fast food, nor is it about saving time. It’s more about controlling the browning reaction by speeding it up or slowing it down in order to get a desired end result.

The Maillard reaction is, to put it simple, a reaction between an amino acid and a sugar (there’s more on the chemistry at the end of the post). To speed it up you can do one or more of the following:

Egg white foam + microwave = Vauquelin

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

By beating air into an egg white you can increase it’s volume by a factor of approximately 8. Hervé This has shown that water is the limiting component. By adding more water you can significantly increase the volume. Addition of sugar further stabilises the foam by increasing the viscosity of the water. A very simple dessert kan be made by whisking egg whites with sugar and berries of your choice. In Norway we refer to this as “Troll cream”. There’s more on this over at An interesting question for you to ponder upon is in what order egg whites, berries and sugar should be mixed to maximize the volume!

But there is more to such a foam than trolls! For the following experiment, use one eggwhite and a berry syrup of your choice – I used a blueberry syrup (approximately 1,5 dL). Start by whisking the egg white. Add the syrup slowly over 5-10 min while constantly whisking. Observe how the volume increases dramatically. When I did the experiment I got roughly 2 L of foam (which corresponds to a 40-50 fold increase in volume). Make sure you use a clean bowl, preferably one of metal as fats and oil cling very well to plastic bowls.


Now comes the fun part: Put some of the egg white foam onto a plate and place it in a microwave oven to make the proteins set! Hervé This described this in a recent article and decided to name this dish “Vauquelin” after the french pharmacist and chemist Louis Nicolas Vauquelin. It does take some experimentation to find a proper combination of the power setting and the time needed for the Vauquelin to set. If you overdo it, the foam will just collapse. I used the 360W setting and 4 seconds for the Vaquelin in the picture below.


Cutting through the Vauquelin with a knife leaves a trace which does not refill.


Scooping out with a spoon also gives you an impression of the texture.


Instead of blueberry syrup you can try other liquids. Hervé This suggests orange juice or cranberry juice (both require addition of sugar). Liquours also work fine (although my experimentation suggests that the volume increases somewhat less), but remember to add sugar as this stabilises the foam and rounds of the taste.